An Alleged PCP User Was in an Ambulance. It Crashed. Here's What Happened Next.

A blog about murder, theft, and other wickedness.
Aug. 2 2013 12:28 PM

An Alleged PCP User Was in an Ambulance. It Crashed. Here's What Happened Next.

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In this file photo, a D.C. ambulance heads toward George Washington University Hospital.

Photo by Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images

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At the end of every month, I scour the LexisNexis and Factiva news databases for stories about the criminal exploits of people who are allegedly high on the dissociative drug phencyclidine, or PCP. Urban legend maintains that a dose of PCP—also known as angel dust—can give you superstrength, or make you hunger for human flesh. These are exaggerations. That said, PCP can lower a user’s inhibitions in newsworthy fashion. To wit:

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An underwhelming car chase. “County cops! In unmarked cars! Putting bad drivers behind bars!” That’s the theme song for County Cops, a reality show I plan to pitch to TNT this fall. The pilot episode will celebrate the exploits of Anne Arundel (Md.) County Police Chief Kevin Davis, who helped apprehend an allegedly PCP-addled woman spotted driving erratically in a yellow Saturn. Fifty-one-year-old Sandra Faye Davis (presumably no relation to the chief) led cops on a 5-mile chase that never exceeded 40 mph before surrendering after her tires deflated. (The Annapolis Capital reports that “about a half-dozen officers, some with guns drawn, took the driver into custody without incident.” Phew!) “If that doesn't get your blood flowing as a cop, you're in the wrong business,” Chief Davis told the Capital. I agree: There’s nothing quite like a low-speed suburban car chase that’s resolved by the use of “stop sticks.” Emmy Awards, here I come!

A novel excuse. If you were in the habit of eating cigarette ashes, would you admit it? Maybe, if you thought it would stop you from getting arrested. That may have been new mother Monique Holland’s plan when, according to the Tulsa World, she allegedly told a social worker that her baby had been born with PCP in his system not because she, Monique Holland, abused PCP, but because she liked to eat cigarette ashes, and she must have eaten some that had been laced with the drug. This is one of those excuses that’s just ridiculous enough to ring true—or would have been, if Holland hadn’t previously given birth to two other babies also born with drugs in their systems. You eat laced cigarette ashes once, OK, it’s a mistake. You eat laced cigarette ashes three times, there’s something else going on. Holland was sentenced to eight years in prison for child neglect.

Hulk SMASH! In early July a Lanham, Md., man noticed some suspicious banging coming from his neighbor’s house. Worried that it might be burglars, he called the cops, who arrived to find no burglars, just an agitated, allegedly PCP-freaked resident who had for some reason decided to bust up a bunch of furniture. It’s not clear whether or not this is actually a crime, but, hey, the cops had already come all the way out there, so they decided to spread out and surround the house. This only served to enrage the resident further, and he spent the next nine hours tossing appliances onto the lawn, punching out the windows, and providing false names to the police. The situation resolved around 9 a.m., when the man—who by then must have been coming down from whatever drug he was on—jumped out of a second-story window, brandished a pistol, and ran away, only to be taken down by a brave police dog named Rambo. “It’s just completely erratic behavior,” a cop told the Washington Post. “This guy, at the end of the day, I don't even know if he'll remember this.” His neighbors will probably never forget it.

This month’s obligatory naked-guy story. Devoted readers of this column know that people who use PCP really like to take their clothes off. This month’s nudist is John Hugh Brigham, who was recently sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for a June 2012 incident that saw him “carjacking several vehicles while naked and causing crashes that injured seven people,” according to the Associated Press. This story is particularly sad because, as the Daily Mail reported, Brigham used to be a well-loved high school English teacher, much like Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society. Now, he will primarily be remembered for “smashing into five vehicles in a stolen car before jumping on top of one and screaming unintelligibly while wearing only a pair of socks”—which sort of sounds like a character Robin Williams could embody in a big comeback project. O Captain! My Captain!

PCP Story of the Month. Have you ever seen an ambulance barreling through traffic, sirens roaring, and thought to yourself, Man, I bet it’d be fun to drive one of those babies? Then perhaps you’ll relate to Darren Ethedge, a Washington, D.C. man who, last week, realized that dream, if only for a few minutes. The story begins with Ethedge in the back of an ambulance. According to police, he was being transported to a local hospital because of some PCP-related malady. Unfortunately, the ambulance crashed. A second ambulance was dispatched to collect Ethedge and the stranded paramedics.

That’s when the fun started. According to the Associated Press, Etherdge allegedly sneaked out of the back of the first ambulance, hopped into the driver’s seat of the second ambulance, and drove away. He had only gone a few blocks before police caught up with him and “ordered him out of the ambulance.” Still, a few blocks is farther than most of us will ever drive an ambulance. That’s an experience you’d never want to forget. Here’s hoping that, when he woke up the next morning, Ethedge was able to remember what he’d done.

Justin Peters is a writer for Slate. He is working on a book about Aaron Swartz, copyright, and the rise of “free culture.” Email him at justintrevett@fastmail.fm.